Recruiting Can’t Be Strategic Until It Shifts to a Marketing Approach – Here Is How

There is currently little doubt among strategic recruiting leaders that recruiting must become more like corporate marketing. That’s because, among the hierarchy of business functions, marketing receives much stronger executive support and multiple times more funding than recruiting. If you’re curious why the corporate marketing approach is so much more strategic and impactful, it is because it emphasizes data-driven decision-making, market segmentation, powerful branding and being customer-centric.

When recruiting adopts a marketing approach, significant changes happen in employer branding, prospect attrition, and selling candidates. This, in turn, generates many benefits. They include a reduction in low impact recruiting efforts, while it simultaneously allows a firm to recruit top quality hires and innovators that it couldn’t attract using standard approaches. In fact, I estimate that this shift to a data-driven marketing approach could at some firms produce up to a 50% improvement in recruiting results.

Here are some of the most important approaches recruiting should consider borrowing from marketing:

1. A shift to data-driven decision-making

During the last century, corporate marketing and recruiting both made decisions based on historical practices and intuitive, creative hunches. However, with the digital age, marketing shifted to a data-based decision model, while recruiting has not. This shift requires recruiting leaders to begin making decisions on employer branding, recruitment advertising and job posting placement based solely on hard data.

The first step requires a firm to measure and quantify its quality of hire (i.e., the on-the-job performance of new-hires) in order to determine what works and what doesn’t. With this quality of hire measure, recruiting can eliminate actions that don’t positively impact its quality of hire. Recruiting must also adopt A/B testing in order to continually refine its current messaging.

2. Begin segmenting of your recruiting targets based on market research

A foundational element of corporate marketing is using market research to fully understand the many different segments of customers. That is because marketing is a lot like fishing, in that you must change your bait for each category of fish that you’re trying to catch.

In direct contrast, recruiting has a bad habit of “lumping” its standard targets together, as well as its diversity recruiting target groups together as if everyone was the same. Recruiting must begin to rely exclusively on market research to identify the distinct segments of your recruiting targets. And then to conduct further marketing research to learn the unique recruiting “attraction factors,” the turn off factors and the communications channels, methods and sources that are most effective for actually reaching each segment.

In order to maximize effectiveness, the recruiting messages to each segment must be customized and then updated when new market research data is received. Key market segments that must not be ignored include top performers, innovators and the currently employed that are not actively looking for a job.

3. A shift to an extreme emphasis on the employer brand

Those in corporate marketing considers the company’s product brand to be paramount. Unfortunately, recruiting leaders routinely significantly underfund and underappreciate the critical importance of their firm’s employer brand. That is reflected in the fact that 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job, but only 57% of employers say that they have an employer brand strategy.

In order to maximize the impact of a firm’s employer brand, its brand messaging also needs to be “prospect/candidate-centric.” Which means that the firm’s brand messaging (including job postings) need to cover what the recruiting targets need to see in a firm, rather than the factors that the firm is most proud of. Employer brand strength covering its impact on job applications also needs to be periodically measured.

And finally, all employees need to be encouraged to make referrals (using provided authentic stories) because referrals produce the highest quality hires, while simultaneously spreading your employer brand.

4. A shift to a segmented employee value proposition

Corporate marketing, of course, focuses on their customer value proposition. But they realize that the value proposition that is received differs significantly when a customer is considering a high-end versus a discount product from their line.

Unfortunately, recruiting almost always pushes a single employee value proposition. That is a huge problem because the job that is experienced by an executive or a technologist differs significantly from the value received by someone working in a clerical job. The value proposition provided at different corporate locations also varies significantly.

That means that instead of the traditional shotgun approach, that the information covering the value proposition for each major job family and location must be customized. So that the information provided only covers the specific factors that the potential applicants care about for those jobs.

5. A shift to a candidate-centric approach

Corporate marketing is laser-focused on meeting customer needs. Unfortunately, recruiting is often overly focused on administrative efficiency, reducing costs and meeting the whims of hiring managers. Recruiting must shift to what is known as a “candidate-centric approach.”

Where the design of recruiting processes (including the application process, interview scheduling and the information provided to prospects/applicants) puts the needs and the expectations of the recruiting targets first. Applicant, candidate and new-hire surveys also need to be used upfront in order to identify their process expectations, and afterwards to see where the recruiting process could become more candidate-friendly.

6. Begin quantifying and reporting recruiting results in dollars

When a corporation invests in marketing or advertising; the results are quantified and reported in such a way that they reveal their total dollar of business impact. In direct contrast, recruiting never quantifies its dollar impact on corporate strategic goals like revenue, innovation and product development. It focuses on process efficiency and reducing costs.

Instead, metrics reporting needs to make executives aware that when for example, recruiting hires better performing salespeople, sales trainers, and managers, that sales revenues go up proportionately. The key to quantifying business impacts in dollars is to work with the CFO’s office to develop a credible quantification process.

7. Begin expecting recruiters to excel at selling

Recruiting’s entire shift to a marketing approach can’t work unless each of the three key components (employer branding, recruitment marketing, and candidate selling) all work in unison. And no matter how effective the first two components are, the entire process will come up short unless your recruiters excel at selling candidates.

“Recruiting is just sales with a crummy budget.” So, to successfully land top candidates that are in high demand, each prospect and candidate must be effectively sold that this job and this company meet each of their “job acceptance criteria.” And since hiring managers are seldom good at selling, it falls on the recruiter to have the capabilities to close even the toughest candidates.

For corporate, including leaders, that means that you must continually train your current recruiters and provide them with the most effective selling and deal closing approaches. Alternatively, require a strong selling competence in every new recruiter you hire.

Final Thoughts

When almost any expert forecasts the future of recruiting when it comes to adopting a marketing approach, the key question is not whether recruiting will shift to a corporate marketing approach, but only when that shift will occur. As someone that often gives corporate talks covering the need for this shift, I find it difficult to understand why there is still any hesitation at major firms.

First off, it is clear that executives favor the data-driven approach of corporate marketing over the more casual approach that recruiting takes to marketing. In addition, the principles of corporate marketing are not that difficult to learn and it’s a plus that those that work internally in the corporate marketing function are almost always more than willing to help you out. So my final recommendation is to put together a recruiting task force and immediately begin the transition to a data-driven marketing approach.

Author’s Note: If you found that this article stimulated your thinking and that it was actionable, please take a minute to follow or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn.

As seen on LinkedIn Talent Blog (August 22, 2017). Also, republished on Energycentral

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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